Final Paper


The Native American tribe known as the Ojibways that once lived near the Great Lakes tells the legend of Hiawatha. His mother was Winonoah, his father the West Wind (I can’t explain that). When he passed into young manhood Hiawatha left the village to live alone in the woods: he was on a search, for the story tells-

how Hiawatha
Prayed and fasted in the forest,
Not for greater skill in hunting,
Not for greater craft in fishing,
Not for triumphs in the battle,
And renown among the warriors,
But for profit of the people,
For advantage of the nations.

He built a small shelter and for days he fasted, searched the forest and his soul for what would benefit his people. He asked the animals, listened to the rivers, watched the clouds, and on the fourth day of his fasting, as he lay exhausted in his shelter,

From his couch of leaves and branches
Gazing with half-open eyelids,
Full of shadowy dreams and visions,
On the dizzy, swimming landscape,
On the gleaming of the water,
On the splendor of the sunset.
  And he saw a youth approaching,
Dressed in garments green and yellow,
Coming through the purple twilight,
Through the splendor of the sunset;
Plumes of green bent o’er his forehead,
And his hair was soft and golden.
  Standing at the open doorway,
Long he looked at Hiawatha,
Looked with pity and compassion
On his wasted form and features,
And, in accents like the sighing
Of the South-Wind in the tree-tops,
Said he, “O my Hiawatha!
All your prayers are heard in heaven,
For you pray not like the others;
Not for greater skill in hunting,
Not for greater craft in fishing,
Not for triumph in the battle,
Nor renown among the warriors,
But for profit of the people,
For advantage of the nations.
  “From the Master of Life descending,
I, the friend of man, Mondamin,
Come to warn you and instruct you,
How by struggle and by labor
You shall gain what you have prayed for.
Rise up from your bed of branches,
Rise, O youth, and wrestle with me!”

For three days until the sunset, Hiawatha and Mondamin wrestled, then Modamin said,

“O Hiawatha!
Bravely have you wrestled with me,
And the Master of Life, who sees us,
He will give to you the triumph!
Is the last day of your conflict,
Is the last day of your fasting.
You will conquer and o’ercome me;
Make a bed for me to lie in,
Where the rain may fall upon me,
Where the sun may come and warm me;
Strip these garments, green and yellow,
Strip this nodding plumage from me,
Lay me in the earth, and make it
Soft and loose and light above me.
  “Let no hand disturb my slumber,
Let no weed nor worm molest me,
Till I wake, and start, and quicken,
Till I leap into the sunshine.”

And the next day:

And behold! the young Mondamin,
With his soft and shining tresses,
With his garments green and yellow,
With his long and glossy plumage,
Stood and beckoned at the doorway.
And as one in slumber walking,
Pale and haggard, but undaunted,
From the wigwam Hiawatha
Came and wrestled with Mondamin.
  Round about him spun the landscape,
Sky and forest reeled together,
And his strong heart leaped within him,
And a hundred suns seemed looking
At the combat of the wrestlers.
  Suddenly upon the greensward
All alone stood Hiawatha,
Panting with his wild exertion,
And before him breathless, lifeless,
Lay the youth, with hair dishevelled,
Plumage torn, and garments tattered,
Dead he lay there in the sunset.
  And victorious Hiawatha
Made the grave as he commanded,
Stripped the garments from Mondamin,
Stripped his tattered plumage from him,
Laid him in the earth, and made it
Soft and loose and light above him;
Day by day did Hiawatha
Go to wait and watch beside it;
Kept the dark mould soft above it,
Kept it clean from weeds and insects,
Drove away, with scoffs and shoutings,
Kahgahgee, the king of ravens.
  Till at length a small green feather
From the earth shot slowly upward,
Then another and another,
And before the Summer ended
Stood the maize in all its beauty,(maize is the Native word for corn)
With its shining robes about it,
And its long, soft, yellow tresses;
And in rapture Hiawatha
Cried aloud, “It is Mondamin!
Yes, the friend of man, Mondamin!” Showed them where the maize was growing,
this new gift to the nations,
Which should be their food forever.
  And still later, when the Autumn
Changed the long, green leaves to yellow,
And the soft and juicy kernels
Grew like wampum hard and yellow,
Then the ripened ears he gathered,
Stripped the withered husks from off them,
As he once had stripped the wrestler,
Gave the first Feast of Mondamin,
And made known unto the people
This new gift of the Great Spirit. 

The point of the legend is this: you can get what you desire, but you must work for it, suffer for it, get your ass kicked for it, come back again for it. But eventually, like Hiawatha, he finds the gift from the Great Spirit to his people: corn, their basic food of life.

Your assignment, in one paragraph between 270-300 words, is to read and think about this story, then tell me how this story applies to you, your life and struggles and goals. Remember Modamin’s words: “How by struggle and by labor/ You shall gain what you have prayed for.”

Are you willing to work hard, sacrifice, and suffer to succeed?

Okay the, write a paragraph about that.

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